Local News

Settlement reached with former police chief

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane City Council will soon be considering a resolution night to pay former interim police chief Scott Stephens a $190,000 settlement.

The resolution is listed on the council's legislative agenda for May 6.

Friday morning the police department sent out a brief, one-sentence statement from Police Chief Frank Straub wishing Stephens well in his future endeavors.

"I appreciate Asst. Chief Stephens many years of service to the Department and the community as well as his leadership during a transitional period in the Department's history and wish him well in the future."

Mayor David Condon confirmed Friday afternoon Stephens filed a $750,000 claim against the city last week, but settled with the city for $190,000. Condon described the settlement as being "fair to all."

Stephens, the one-time interim chief passed over by Mayor David Condon to take on the chief role after Anne Kirkpatrick resigned in 2011, has been on paid administrative leave since December following a shake-up in department leadership that saw Stephens go from assistant chief to being in charge of getting the department re-accredited.

Stephens settlement

The former interim chief reportedly vented his concerns on his demotion to a fellow officer, who then told Major Craig Meidl, who had just been promoted to Stephens' former position as assistant chief.

The officer suggested to Meidl that Stephens had claimed he would "go postal," which prompted Straub to immediately ordered him to take a mental health examination, which he passed. He was also placed on administrative leave and the department began working to find a quiet and amicable solution so he could retire from the force.

Unfortunately for Stephens he was originally demoted from assistant chief to captain, but after he was placed on administrative leave the department decided if he were ever to return to the department it would be at the rank of lieutenant, a second demotion, which came with both a cut in pay as well as a substantial cut to his retirement benefits package.

"They have reduced his salary," Stephens' attorney Bob Dunn said in early March. "He's being paid a lieutenant's salary. We think that's retaliation and we think it's a hostile work environment they've created for him that's actionable, civilly."

The city, playing hardball, tried to force Stephens to retire as a lieutenant or they would launch an internal affairs investigation against him. When he did not sign the city hired retired Judge Michael Hogan to investigate an insubordination claim leveled against Stephens. Stephens responded by filing a civil service claim against the police department.

Dunn, who successfully defended detectives Jay Mehring and Jeff Harvey in wrongful termination cases that ended with both getting their jobs back after both were terminated by former Chief Kirkpatrick, believed that if he had to take Stephens' case to court the jury would side with his client's position as a long-term public servant of the City of Spokane and had not been insubordinate to anyone in the department.

"Scott Stephens doesn't want a lawsuit. He wants to be treated fairly and if that means they negotiate an early retirement package so that he departs from the City of Spokane Police Department, so be it. At the same time, he's not going to let the train run over him for conduct he did not engage in," Dunn said.

The $190,000 settlement between the city and Stephens allows the former chief to leave as assistant chief, not lieutenant, and the amount of his settlement is equal to one year of pay and benefits as assistant chief of police.